Aldis Hodge

*Actor Aldis Hodge starts a third season on the TNT hit series “Leverage” as one in a team of thieves, drifters and con-artists that are highly skilled and out to settle scores against those who use power and wealth to victimize others. Hodge plays Alec Hardison, a gadget and technology wizard who keeps the team informed.

Aldis, like his character, has a love for gadgets, but one type gadget, watches. When asked if that love for watches helped him be the “gadget” man on the team he said, “It does help me understand how someone can be so into his craft. I know a little bit about a computer…some people would call me a geek. I’m a nerd in real life, but people like to think I’m cool. When people think of nerds they think of glasses…that type thing. I wanted to give the audience something else.”

Aldis admitted that the writers on the series trust the actors enough where they can improv where they think it’s best for the character.

“After the original take on what’s written…I play with the character,” Aldis Hodge confined.

Starring with Hodge on TNT’s “Leverage” are team leader Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton (Original People) who plays Nate Ford, a former insurance investigator; Gina Bellman (Coupling) who plays Sophie Devereaux ,a drifter that uses her acting skills to corner her mark; Christian Kane (“Into the West”) who plays Eliot Spencer, a “retrieval specialist” with bone-crushing fighting skills, and Beth Riesgraf (Alvin and the Chipmunks) who plays Parker, a slightly off-centered thief adept at rappelling off buildings or squeezing into tight places.

Last season 4.5 million viewers watched and it ended where the “Leverage” team had scammed a hedge-fund manager who happened to be in the custody of U.S. Marshals; they had used Eliot’s martial arts skills to corner a corrupt fight promoter; took over a private school to recover millions of dollars lost in a Ponzi scheme; went head-to-head with an almost identical team of drifters to recover a painting; took down an oppressive sweat-shop owner; cornered a fake psychic; freed Nate’s ex-wife from a Ukrainian jail; thwarted a gun-running scheme by a corrupt mayor, and left Sophie conflicted about her relationship with Nate and questioning if she wanted to continue working with the team.

“Everything is set. We work off the camera operator to find out mark,” Aldis said when asked about their almost artistic camera positioning of the characters in scenes. “He is great…not too much rehearsal. We don’t table read, we shoot from the hip…let the acting happen…I like it.”

Hodge started acting at age nine, appearing in the Tony Award winning revival “Showboat” on Broadway for 2 ½ years. Through the years to follow he appeared in movies such as Die Hard with a Vengeance, Bed of Roses and Big Momma’s House, and television shows such as “Friday Night Lights,” “Supernatural,” “Girlfriends,” “Bones,” “CSI,” and “Cold Case.”

TNT’s “Leverage,” executively produced by Dean Devlin of Electric Entertainment (Independence Day), returns for a third season beginning with two weeks of back-to-back episodes on Sunday, June 20, 2010 and Sunday, June 27 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).

Comedienne/actress Annie McKnight joins panel at the Los Angeles ‘Uplifting Minds II’ entertainment conference Sunday, June 27, 2010

Annie McKnight

Comedienne/actress Annie McKnight serves on the judges’ panel at the Sunday June 27, 2010 “Uplifting Minds II” (ULMII) entertainment conference to be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center (West Hall Theater) from 1 – 7 p.m. Annie, along with the other judges on the panel, will score on ten acts in vocal, songwriting and/or dance, during the talent showcase competition, for a chance for them to be the top winner in each category and be garnered with the ULMII Award and a list of other prizes. The talent competition is from 5 – 7 p.m. and is hosted by KDAY 93.5’s DJ So Real – admission is free!

“In this business every opportunity has options some cost some don’t,” Annie McKnight points out about why she chose to volunteer her time for the event.

Annie McKnight knows from experience about cost, just participating in the ULMII conference is costing her time, money (parking, gas, missed gig opportunities), in fact, this is her second time participating. McKnight also knows about investing in your craft too because she went to college – and it cost her. The ULMII entertainment conference offers attendees, just that education and a chance to invest in your craft.

McKnight earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Columbia College. After college her comedic and acting crafts have helped her amass an impressive list of credits that include BET’s Comic View, Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment, and the Tonight Show for her stand-up and The Soloist, starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr.; Cornered, starring Steven Guttenberg, Crazy on the Outside, starring Tim Allen; Crimes of the Heart, Two Degrees, Hair Show, “Heroes,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “iCarly” for her acting. Annie recently won $10,000 on “America’s Funniest People.” Annie works with children with Autism using her animated facial skills and various vocal abilities to help teach them.

The 11 year-old conference will start with the ULMII entertainment seminars that include “PR/Media and Promotions Strategies” by PR/media and promotions consultant Eunice Moseley (www.FreelanceAssociatesInc.com); “artist management skills” by label owner Debra French (www.FrenchRoyaltyEnt.com); “Finding Gigs Online” by former model/actress and current artist manager Kerri Moseley-Hobbs (www.Anthony-Michael.com), and “Marketing in the 21st Century” by label owner Vernon Neilly (www.boosweet.com). Pre-registration is required and all attendees receive a copy of the ULMII Music Business Handbook.

Aside from Annie McKnight, ULMII talent competition judges include public relations specialist Phyllis Caddell (www.PCPublicRelations.com); actress/singer Ashley Argota (Lulu on Nickelodeon’s ‘True Jackson, VP’); film director/producer Ben Foster (www.BenFosterFilms.com); award winning guitarist Vernon Neilly, and legendary radio personality Lee Bailey (RadioScope and www.EURweb.com).

Words of advice to up-coming talent from Annie, “If you’re starting your career a lot will cost you…time, effort…knowledge…clothes…we can go on for days about cost, but don’t worry!”

Prizes for the showcase winners include a free music video courtesy of Ben Foster (www.BenFosterFilms.com); free music track from four-time ULMII winner VIP (www.DustDemAFF.com); 30 minutes free legal consultation from Paul Gardner II, Esq. (www.TheGardnerLawGroup.com) and Richard Jefferson, Esq. (www.metallawgroup.com); a slot as an opening act for L.A. Urban R&B singer/songwriter Trueful (www.FrenchRoyaltyEnt.com);  50% off marketing and promotions of social media pages by Boosweet Records (www.Boosweet.com), and vocal coaching from vocalist Nadiyah Kareem (Superstar Entertainment).

For more Annie McKnight log onto www.AnnieMcKnight.com and for more information on attending the Los Angeles “Uplifting Minds II” entertainment conference log onto www.UpliftingMinds2.com